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EDIT: This question is specifically about how to communicate my actions and goals to my current employer. This question is unconcerned with the ethics of interviewing without intention of taking the job, to clarify, the ethics tag has been removed

I've been contacted about interviewing by a recruiter and I'd like to take the interview but don't really plan on leaving my current job (everyone has a price, though.) I'd like to be honest with my employer about why I'm taking Paid Time Off because A) the company I'm interviewing with may contact my current employer for reference and B) I'd like to establish a trend of interviewing once a year without anyone worrying about my loyalty.

TL:DR How do I handle informing my current employer that I am going on an interview but have no intention of leaving my current job?

I've only worked at my current company for 2 years and this company has a reputation for extremely longevity (some of my coworkers started here in the '60's) My boss seems to be a very understanding guy but management above him is very "corporate" so I'm not sure how they would react. I've considered the following options:

  • Explain my intention to remain current by interviewing once a year as I have here. (perhaps also find some business guru who says its a good idea to placate the corporate types.)
  • Just don't tell them where I'm going (Companies cannot require explanations of PTO in my state but I usually do so this might seem odd.)
  • Lie and claim I'm going to a wedding, baby shower, funeral, etc
  • Tell them about the interview but claim it's just because I want someone to pay for a vacation (the interviewing company will pay airfare, room, and board)

  • Any other ideas?

I realize that some of you will say that interviewing is a bad idea or even dishonest if I don't plan to take the job. I've already weighed and made that decision so please keep answers on topic.

A bit of background. At a company I worked for in the past there were a pair of developers who believed in going on at least one job interview a year. They did so and made their bosses (the CTO and CEO) aware of their activities. My understanding is that they were honest about the interview and insistent that it was a matter of currency: neither intended to leave the company and neither ever took job offers. It may be relevant that these people had 14 and 15 years tenure at a 16 year old hundred-million dollar company. Their loyalty was therefore virtually unimpeachable.

I am a mid-career engineer, well credentialed in a niche skill. In other words, people like me are not recruited often but are highly sought-after when the need arises. I work in the U.S. for a large corporation.

  • Ok, I accept your premise that even though I've seen it done successfully before, It's a bad idea. So should I lie to them or not tell them anything? – PhotoScientist Jul 25 '18 at 15:08
  • @dfundako I looked through a couple dozen search results and found nobody asking about going on interviews for the experience of interviewing. Every example I could find involved someone who intended to take the job they were interviewing for. A few people asked about interviewing "for fun" but their questions had nothing to do with informing current employers. Please point out what I've missed – PhotoScientist Jul 25 '18 at 15:10
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    Why do you think you need to even tell them? It's unlikely that they would ever find out that you are interviewing elsewhere unless you tell them. Telling them is going to be of no benefit to you at all and is likely to make them suspicious no matter what you say your reasoning is. – ayrton clark Jul 25 '18 at 15:12
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    "everyone has a price" - So you don't plan on leaving... unless you get a good enough offer? Well, no-one who's looking for a job will take a worse offer, so are you sure you're not actually looking for another job? – Dukeling Jul 25 '18 at 16:04
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    One additional reason this is a bad idea: what if you interview with a company with no intention of taking the job, blow them off, and then a year down the line you are looking for a new job and they are one of your prospects? You don't want to annoy potential employers. – DaveG Aug 30 '18 at 13:20
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You should not tell your boss anything. It's none of his business. If he asks, it's OK to tell a white lie or, my personal favourite, mention personal reasons. Stonewall if you have to. Oh, just taking a little personal time off.

Most managers ask because

  1. Social reasons - it's nice to show interest in your report's lifes
  2. Little pushback - it's socially acceptable to ask and they often get a reply

Regardless, you do not have to answer anything if you don't feel like it.

Sidenote: If your default answer is personal reasons, you will never have to think of an excuse


* References *

Sorry I missed that bit initially, editing in.

It has been my experience companies do not contact employers for reference until the very last moment, in order to avoid situations like the one you fear. In fact job offers in the UK often have some wording akin to subject to a reference check, the job's yours, while others won't even start the referencing process without your explicit permission.

Nevertheless it's not a bad idea to explicitly state your expectations to the interviewer. Just tell them your employer doesn't know you're interviewing, and you prefer to keep it that way and you hope their referencing policy aligns with that goal.


There's nothing immoral about scheduling an interview if you're already happy where you are. It's the interviewer's job to sell you the position as much as it's yours to sell yourself your skills.

  • It is uncommon to need to give references until the very end, when they are making you an offer (or not) based on refs. Push back and promise them you'll provide when the interview gets to that step. – New Alexandria Jul 26 '18 at 0:05
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How do I handle informing my current employer that I am going on an interview but have no intention of leaving my current job?

To specifically answer your question...

You tell your boss "Hey. The reason I'm taking paid time off is so that I can go on interviews. I have no intention of leaving, but everyone has a price though. I plan to repeat this process at least once per year. But don't worry about my loyalty."

I don't pretend to understand why you would do this. It makes no sense to me. But it might accomplish the goals you have set out.

Most folks would only interview for jobs they actually want and only when they might want to leave their current company. Most folks just use a "white lie" like "I have an appointment" or such. Most folks would worry that any reference check coming out of your current company would let the potential employer know about what you have been doing. Most folks would worry that your approach would immediately put you in an awkward position as a "potential short-timer" and not deserving of raises, promotions, or important projects.

But we each have our preferred approach I guess. As you wrote, you've already made your decision. Your approach wouldn't be mine.

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    Three reason, the only way to verify your marketability is to participate in the market, interviewing is a skill better honed when you don't need it than when you do, you might stumble across an opportunity too good to pass up. Don't know why you'd bring it to your bosses attention. – jmoreno Jul 25 '18 at 23:11
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    "I have an appointment" isn't even a white lie. When you have an interview scheduled, you do in fact have an appointment! – Seth R Jul 26 '18 at 21:48
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Why would you ever tell your employer you're interviewing?. There's a pretty open "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to time off for subordinates. This isn't really a courtesy to your boss, he probably doesn't want to know. If he did, he could figure it out. The best case scenario if you decide on telling your boss you're interviewing is an awkward conversation and nothing else. Especially given your statement,

I'd like to take the interview but don't really plan on leaving my current job

I'd make a point not to tell anyone about your intentions and quietly go do your interview.

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I'd like to be honest with my employer about why I'm taking Paid Time Off

Since you have determined that plan works best for you, you should tell your boss what you have told us here. However, I would suggest one little enhancement:

Attend the interview as if you want the job

My personal view on the "ethics" of practice interview is to treat it like shopping. We often visit shops "just to check out what's out there" without a plan to buy anything specific. However, if we do find something useful, we have the option of buying it. The same approach works for interviews.

Just like you wouldn't tell the sales staff, "I am not really interested, just came here to see stuff", you wouldn't say that in the interview either.

The benefit is that if the boss doesn't believe what you said and either fires you or does a "constructive dismissal", you would (probably) end up needing a job soon anyway. Thus, taking the interview seriously is beneficial, with no obvious downside.

An additional tip would be to set the expectations upfront in the upcoming interview(s):

If I am hired and I accept this role, I would prefer to establish a trend of interviewing once every year, even though I wouldn't plan to quit the job. Would you be ok with me taking paid time off to attend these interviews?

You can then choose to work only for companies that are flexible enough to accommodate your interview schedule.

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I'd like to be honest with my employer about why I'm taking Paid Time Off

Then be honest 'I have an appointment I need to go to.'

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Do not tell your employer why you're taking PTO. It is your personal time.

If you want to take a day to clean your house or go on an interview then you do it. For longer time away (you're taking the once in a lifetime trip to Thailand) you could leave contact information.

What if you kill the interview and the 'other' company makes you an offer well beyond what you're now making? If you've told your current employer before you go on the interview you'll look untrustworthy even if you turn the great offer down. I can no good coming from telling your current employer.

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There are some rare employers who are confident about their culture and compensation and encourage their employees to interview at other companies.

There are a bunch of high-level positive effects that can ensue: confirm the current company is the best company for you to work at, figure out how other companies do interviews, use interviewing as a way to network. Nothing wrong with that.

But in the worst case, your employer could think that you are interviewing at another company to use the offer you get there to negotiate a higher compensation at your current company. That is fairly common and I understand why a company might not like that. So it's probably best to just not tell them unless they are very enlightened.

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